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New Orleans, La. — In the downtown area it is easy to find people living off the minimum wage.
"I make minimum wage plus commission... just a little bit more money in my pocket. I'll spend a little bit more, you know, I'll go out to eat a little more," said Antonius Charles.
Charles works on Canal Street and applauds what President Barack Obama had to say during his state-of-the-union address Tuesday night about what millions of Americans are earning.
"Let's declare that in the wealthiest nation on earth, no one who works full-time should have to live in poverty, and raise the federal minimum wage to $9 an hour," said the president.
Currently, the federal minimum wage is $7.25 an hour. After calling on Congress to increase the pay rate the president took his message on the road.
But Republicans, including House Speaker John Boehner, oppose the idea and are gearing up to fight the White House on the issue.
According to the latest U.S. Census, 25.7
percent of people in New Orleans are living below the poverty level, compared to 18.4 in
the state of Louisiana. Nationwide it is 14.3 percent.
"I think $9 is a stretch. I don't think it needs to go up that high," said Mary Tilloy as she walked downtown during the lunch hour.
She said it could devastate the payrolls of many restaurants. "It could go up, you know, a little bit but that's drastic," Tilloy stated.
"That would be very difficult to swallow," said Mike Serio, owner of Serio's Po-Boys and Deli.
He thinks it would undermine job growth. "I'm against it. I want to pay people a fair wage, but I think it's kind of counter-productive because the more the minimum wage goes up, everything goes up," Serio stated.
He said after Hurricane Katrina help was scarce and he had to increase salaries. "In order to get good help you had to pay more and I still pay above minimum," said Serio.
Clearly it is a divisive issue, both nationally and locally.
"I think it would be an excellent idea, it would help this economy if they built up the pay raise for people. They can afford to buy food and gas," Heather Adams told FOX 8 News.
Some minimum wage earners said it is even harder to make ends meet now, after the federal payroll tax went up earlier this year.
"To pay my bills, especially since the tax have gone up, you know, Social Security," said Charles.
"It's sad when you have to choose between food and gas, you know," continued Adams.
"If you've got good employees you pay them more, so we don't need the government to dictate to us what to do. If you got to go that much it's going to put people like me out of business," said Serio.
Tuesday, September 2 2014 10:07 AM EDT2014-09-02 14:07:52 GMT
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